Monday 29 February 2016

Collectibles: February 2016

With the holiday shopping (and drinking) season still hanging over our heads few new wine releases are usually forthcoming in the first couple months of the year. I myself have introduced only a handful of new bottles into my cellar since December, hence no January Collectibles entry. A couple choice selections from a trip to Osoyoos over New Year’s with the BC Wine Appreciation Society are included this month, along with some new wines from the same neighbourhood thanks to a recent Wine Club shipment from Moon Curser.

February 2016 BC wine collectibles

Van Westen 2014 “VD” Pinot Noir: Robert Van Westen and his Pinot Noir partner Tom DiBello maintain a good sense of humour, evident not only by the cheeky name of their collaboration, but in their decision to release it annually on Valentine’s Day. This year marks the fourth vintage for the small lot specialty very popular amongst those in the know on Rob’s mailing list. The Naramata vineyard yields a rather intense wine due to additional hang time necessitated by the north-facing tilt: Rob mentions baking spice, savoury meatiness, and dark chocolate characteristics to accompany the fruit flavours. A relatively bountiful 135 cases represents the largest production yet, and a welcome increase from last year’s miniscule two barrels (51 cases). Winery Direct $40

SpierHead 2014 Pinot Noir Cuvée: This young Kelowna winery has gotten into Pinot Noir in a big way, with four different new releases making their way to market. Always savvy marketers, SpierHead sent review samples broadly to the local community, ensuring strong publicity for wines they had every reason about which to be confident. The flagship Cuvée represents the best barrels, blended to produce 274 cases from five clones across the winery’s vineyards, and then aged for ten months in French oak. It has already garnered praise for being “rich in complexity and texture,” in addition to “concentrated and seductive,” with much potential to “relax and grow in the bottle over the next two to three years.”  Sutton Place Wine Merchant $41

Moon Curser 2013 Petit Verdot: This adventurous Osoyoos winery has been producing varietal Petit Verdot for a few years, one of only a small handful of local ventures doing so. It’s always a small lot release, this time only 246 cases from the Osoyoos East Bench, and part of the reserve “Contraband Series”. Interestingly, only one third of the wine was exposed to any expressive oak (new French in this case), with the remainder fermented in steel and then aged in neutral barrels for a year. The early harvest of mature grapes (24.5 Brix by October 16th) and restraint in the cellar should yield fruit forward characteristics, with the winery suggesting it is more “supple and generous” than previous vintages. Winery Direct $32

Cassini 2011 The Godfather: After a few years in operation and growing success, Proprietor Adrian Cassini introduced an icon red blend in the form of “The Godfather”. The new 2011 is only the second vintage, reflecting the highly respectable increased emphasis on bottle aging Adrian has put in place recently. In the case of The Godfather, time in bottle will most certainly have helped settle it after 24 months in 100% new French oak! The wine is a blend of the best barrels and varieties from the cellar, and doesn’t follow a predictable formula, this year bringing together Cabernet Sauvignon (86%) and Cabernet Franc (14%) to yield a mere 150 cases. Seeing as The Godfather is rarely seen outside the winery tasting room, I took advantage of the New Year’s trip to pick up this rarity. Winery Direct $70

Moon Curser 2013 Border Vines: Another brand new release included in my latest club shipment, the Border Vines is Moon Curser’s prevalent (1,710 cases) red blend. In past years the inclusion of Carménère has rounded out the six-grape blend, complementing the more traditional Cabernets, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot – putting it a step above others. However, it seems Cabernet Franc didn’t fit the bill for 2013, as it is notably absent this year, making for 32% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Malbec, 18% Petit Verdot, and 4% Carménère. It’s certainly surprising to see so much Petit Verdot, especially from a winery that also bottles a straight varietal of the grape; Chris Tolley always keeps things interesting! I added the new vintage to my rotating vertical of this little gem, pushing the 2009 to the top of the queue for upcoming consumption; fortunately it should be well preserved under screwcap. Winery Direct $27

Nk’Mip 2013 Mer’r’iym Meritage: While the 2012 vintage of Nk’Mip’s relatively new icon red blend is still listed online (and sold out to boot), the 2013 was found in generous quantities at the Osoyoos tasting room during my visit over New Year’s. The big bold red from some of the Okanagan’s southernmost vineyards is built to age elegantly, and now that I have the 2013 I can finally open my inaugural 2008 to make room in the rotating vertical I keep. Surprisingly, Nk’Mip elected on a blend dominated by three quarters Merlot, despite the beneficial vintage conditions that would imply Cabernet Sauvignon, in this case bringing up the rear at only 12%, with 7% Malbec, and 5% Cabernet Franc to balance the profile. Regardless, it should age just fine (given suggestions regarding past vintages) as I await the 2018 vintage release that bumps this one into consumption status. Winery Direct $50

Osoyoos Larose 2012 Le Grand Vin: Despite just picking up the 2011 vintage in December, the new 2012 has already been spotted on store shelves. As John Schreiner pointed out at the end of last year, reduced production quantities from 2010 and 2011 meant the 2012 was released early despite the potential benefits of bottle aging. This newest release comes just as news has emerged that new Winemaker Mathieu Mercier is himself being replaced by Jean-Marc Enixon, in a friendly staff rotation by estate owner Groupe Taillan. Mathieu would have aged and blended the 2012 after Pascal Madevon departed in early 2013. He settled on a final configuration of 50% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Malbec that charmed Schreiner into a 94-point score (and prompted Anthony Gismondi to declare it “one of the best young Osoyoos Larose we have tasted”). Swirl VQA Store $45

Monday 15 February 2016

February Wine Club: Not That Colbert

My favourite aspect of our monthly wine club is the fact that it encourages people to experiment in the kitchen to find the best food pairings. This month one of our regular couples was forced to cancel on short notice, but some highly enthusiastic pinch hitters joined us in their absence. Maybe it was the presence of new members to impress, or maybe inspiration was in particular abundance this month, but everyone brought their A-game! There were plenty of new gourmet dishes and exciting wines to share.

Hester Creek 2014 Trebbiano & Haywire 2012 Canyonview Pinot Noir with Miso-glazed Tofu & Mushroom Gruyere Polenta Rounds

As we awaited the arrival of all eight diners we noshed on warm hors d’oeuvres from the oven, paired with a wine duo sure to please any palate. The first course chefs had brought us Miso-glazed Baked Tofu with Sesame Seeds, and Fried Polenta Rounds with Gruyere & Wild Mushrooms. We had the joy of first sipping from a wine I have foolishly not enjoyed in some time – Hester Creek’s unique varietal Trebbiano. The forty-year-old vines on the Golden Mile Bench produced 1,000 cases in 2014 of a wine that stands alone in Canada. The lip-smacking refreshment of last spring’s release was still very much a joy to drink at the same time the 2015 is likely being bottled. The perfumed nose of dried flowers and tropical fruits opened up into a palate of subtle fresh stone fruit and candied pineapple. I was reminded that keeping a few bottles on hand as a summer staple this year will be wise.

While the crisp Trebbiano helped cut through the rich polenta rounds it was Haywire’s 2012 Canyonview Pinot Noir that was expected to coordinate best with the mushrooms and cheese. This follow-up to the Lt. Governor’s Award-winning 2011 vintage comes from Summerland grapes that spent time in used oak barrels and concrete eggs. It yielded generous varietal character on the earthy nose, and the pleasingly smooth palate presented cranberry and cherry flavours that reminded some guests of tasty fruit gummies. The slightly smoky character actually worked well with the baked tofu, which unexpectedly encouraged the wine to express darker tropical fruit flavours.

Synchromesh 2014 Cabernet Franc with Aubergine Dream Soup

With everyone gathered around the table, our appetizer course was presented, courtesy of one particularly intrepid guest who carried a full crock pot across town in a taxi! The devoted chef had brought us an incredibly flavourful eggplant soup modelled after the “Aubergine Dream” served at a friend’s Souppe Shoppe in Toronto. Roasted eggplant and mushrooms were topped with double-smoked bacon bits and mushroom chips, paired with new Synchromesh 2014 Cabernet Franc. Okanagan Falls Winemaker Alan Dickinson worked with the Cachola family to nurture a small vineyard outside Oliver, from which this bright and punchy wine came to us. The savoury nose of herbs and leather worked very well alongside the soup, and the palate proved surprisingly smooth for such a young wine, with a fruit-forward influence and tart cherry flavours.

CedarCreek 2006 Colbert Edition Platinum Meritage with Beet & Cheddar Lasagna

For the entree course I was inspired yet again by BC Liquor Stores’ TASTE Magazine, having recalled a creative take on traditional lasagna spotted in last Fall’s issue. The Beet & Cheddar Lasagna turned out very well, with layers of beets, chard, whole wheat pasta, and a tangy aged cheddar béchamel sauce topped with a crispy pistachio crumble. With such a hearty, earthy dish on offer I turned to a big, aged red with expected intensity to match. The CedarCreek 2006 Platinum Meritage “Colbert Edition” was a unique small lot (144 cases) produced when the winery acquired four barrels of rare Sylvain French oak from a 350-year-old tree. Supposedly the trees in the forest of Bertrange were planted under the supervision of Louis the Fourteenth’s Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert. The wine is not an homage to talented comedian and television host Stephen Colbert (who is in fact of Irish ancestry).

Decanted at the beginning of the meal, the Meritage was ready to reveal the results of nine years aging on the blend of Merlot (40%), Cabernet Sauvignon (31%), Malbec (18%), Cabernet Franc (9%) and Petit Verdot (2%) – which spent 21 months in those Colbert barrels. We smelled toasted vanilla, milk chocolate, and the meaty notes of “really good steak,” plus a touch of residual volatile acidity. The palate was velvety smooth with a lively tart finish, and showing intense flavours of blueberry compote along with some savoury olives and a hint of the aforementioned steak’s raw bloodiness. Not including the contents of some vertical collections, the Colbert Meritage was one of the oldest BC wines in my collection, and it was a joy to share it with good friends over great food.

Singletree 2013 Siegerrebe & Hillside 2005 Mosaic with Blue Cheese Cheesecake

Full of beets we settled back to see what the dessert team had brought us, hiding beneath a tea towel before the final reveal. Individual mason jar cheesecakes yielded applause, particularly when the details were presented: the savoury Blue Cheese Cheesecakes were topped with Blueberry Port Compote and Thyme Honey Graham Cracker Crumble. The chefs were apparently feeling as nostalgic as I was, given the 2005 Hillside Mosaic they were willing to open. In addition, their recent day-trip to Abbotsford had included a visit to growing new winery Singletree, from where a bottle of 2013 Fraser Valley Siegerrebe was obtained. The Siegerrebe’s sweetly scented nose of honey and lychee fruit was a superb pairing for the cheesecake, while the Mosaic offered darker aged character. Suggestions of tomatoes and olives prompted “pizza” as the aromatic descriptor of choice, while “funky” maple-caramelized vegetables swirled about the spicy palate.

Satisfaction and mutual compliments were widespread as we concluded the evening; it was a particularly innovative meal with some rare wines and inspired pairings as well. We enjoyed reds from an expansive range of ten vintages, let alone the fresh and exciting whites, giving us all many wonderful memories and even further inspiration for future gatherings.